New Mordant Family/Australia Council Affiliated Fellows: Reko Rennie and Angela Valamanesh

Color image of two separate photos side by side. On the left is a man with a beard and a black shirt standing in an artist's studio, with a yellow and black graphic work on the work table in front of him; on the right is a woman standing in a gallery next to hre abstract ceramic relief sculpture hanging on the white wall behind her
Reko Rennie (photograph by Roger D. Souza) and Angela Valamanesh (photograph from Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert)

Two celebrated Australian artists, Reko Rennie and Angela Valamanesh, are the latest recipients of the Mordant Family/Australia Council Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Inititated in 2017, this Affiliated Fellowship is made possible by the Australia Council for the Arts through the generous support of the Mordant family.

Reko Rennie is a renowned interdisciplinary artist who explores his First Nations identity through contemporary media. His primarily autobiographical works draw from the iconography of his Kamilaroi heritage with stylistic elements of graffiti; they also integrate traditional diamond-shaped designs, hand-drawn symbols, and repetitive patterns to challenge traditional ideologies of Aboriginal identity. During his two-month fellowship, Rennie plans to research marble sculpture for future works and to travel to Carrara to speak with local artisans.

Recent works by Angela Valamanesh, a leading Australian ceramicist, consist of simple forms that link plant, human, and animal. For her, inspiration comes from the diversity seen in nature, and her in-depth research of such forms reveals similarities in patterns, allowing her art to offer insight into the natural world. Valamanesh will use the fellowship to research early Roman ceramics, including mosaics, votive offerings, and functional objects.

On behalf of the family, Simon Mordant AO, a current member of the AAR Board of Trustees, said, “We are delighted to extend this opportunity to two more exemplary Australian artists—including, for the first time, a First Nations recipient. Reko Rennie has already achieved considerable recognition within Australia and internationally with his dynamic and provocative work.”

“Angela Valamanesh is also a highly experienced and established artist whose intriguing and highly personal work has traversed a number of mediums over more than four decades,” Mordant continued. “We look forward to seeing what they will produce, drawing on the world-class resources of the American Academy.”

Rennie and Valamanesh are the fifth and sixth recipients of this opportunity. The previous recipients are Barbara Campbell, Alex Seton, Jenny Watson, and Lynne Roberts Goodwin.

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette AM said, “This residency offers a unique opportunity for Australian artists to extend their international networks and to further develop their practice, with access to a wealth of history and resources at the American Academy in Rome. We thank the Mordant family for their continued support.”

This text is adapted from an Australia Council press release and from language on the websites of Reko Rennie and Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert.

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